You don’t pay Lisa Kudrow a reported $2.5 million to appear at the “Friends” reunion special and not have her sing the defining ballad of our time, “Smelly Cat.”
Thankfully, she got by with a little help from a different friend, Lady Gaga, who joined the actor in the HBO Max special, which reunited all six cast members on screen for the first time since the beloved sitcom wrapped 17 years ago,
First performed in an early episode in the show’s second season, “Smelly Cat,” an ode to an especially pungent pet, became a pop culture phenomenon and a bonafide hit for Kudrow, who co-wrote the song’s lyrics and once performed the acoustic number on stage with Taylor Swift.
So, she was well-primed to duet with Gaga during “Friends: The Reunion” for the ultimate tribute to the so-bad-it’s-good earworm. Sitting on the couch of the Central Perk set, Kudrow sings the opening lines before Gaga enters, guitar in hand.
Dressed in her Phoebe Buffay finest, Gaga takes a seat next to Kudrow, telling her it’s “one of my favorite songs,” before asking if she can “take ‘Smelly Cat’ for a spin?”
Gaga proceeds to belt out the song, much to the delight of Kudrow, who jokingly tells her, “That’s not bad.”
“You may not be a bed of roses / You’re not friend to those with noses,” Gaga continues, before gesturing to her own nose à la “A Star Is Born.” (For what it’s worth, this performance would absolutely be Jackson Maine-approved.)
But, remember, this special has a budget, so before long a gospel choir emerges to provide some background vocals and give the song some extra oomph, as Gaga and Kudrow finish it off with some final flourishes.
The bit ends on a heartfelt note, with Gaga telling Kudrow just how much her character meant to viewers all these years.
“Can I just say something? Thank you for being the person for all of us on Friends … I don’t know if this is the right way to say it, but the different one or the one that was really herself,” Gaga told Kudrow.
“Thank you,” the actor said in return. “And thanks for carrying it along.”
Gaga, who was among a slew of famous guests to appear in the special, apparently “jumped at the chance” to sing with Kudrow, despite having little rehearsal time.
“I said to Lisa, ‘Would you be prepared to sing it?’ And she was like, ‘Yeah, that would be fun,’” director Ben Winston recalled to Variety. “We went through a few names, and we both agreed that Gaga, if we could get her, would be the ultimate one because she associates with and feels close to Phoebe in so many ways, as Gaga says on the show. That was a really beautiful moment.”
Watch the performance below:
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